Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Modest Proposal

There's no doubt that in first class cricket, the beamer remains a big 'no no' - the general reaction to Sree Santh's delivery to Pietersen at Trent Bridge yesterday bears this out. You can go to whatever lengths you need to (within the laws of the game) to get a man out, but the head high full toss aimed at the batsman is a line not to be crossed.

There can be no shadow of a doubt that the Sree Santh beamer to Kevin Pietersen was totally deliberate - as deliberate as his subsequent '18 yarder' to Paul Collingwood.

Rather than vociferous protest and an assumption that the matter will be sorted out after the game by the match referee, the beamer is serious enough to require an immediate, and meditated response. The England team should have taken a leaf out of the Major League Baseball playbook.

Throwing at batters in the MLB is more common than beamers in first class cricket. The nature of some pitches means that they can easily 'get away' from a pitcher and strike a batter. It's easy to tell when this is the case, and there is normally little retaliation. It's equally easy to tell when the throwing at a batter is deliberate. In this case, retaliation is swift. Pitchers protect their batters - it's expected of them.

SO, when the Indians came to bat England should have selected the equivalent batsman to KP in the Indian batting line up - most probably Tendulkar. When Tendulkar came to the crease, Jimmy Anderson should have deliberately bowled a head high full toss at Tendulkar. In the resulting furore - with Tendulkar likely taking strong issue with Anderson, Michael Vaughan should have apologised to him, and made it very clear that this was in direct response to the beamer bowled at Pietersen, and as far as England are concerned the matter is now closed.

The chances of Tendulkar having a quiet word with Sree Santh after the game and telling him not to try anything quite so crass again? Very high.

The chances of Sree Santh bowling a beamer at The Oval, and thus putting any of his batsmen in line for another retaliation? Very low.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chairman of the Board

There are two candidates for the vacancy of Head of the ECB...

Mike Soper (Surrey)

Positives - Excellent job on the redevelopment of The Oval, plus some very 'fan friendly' policies like cheap ticket offers and letting ordinary spectators into the corporate hospitality boxes - the first time the seats in them had been turned to face the wicket I'd guess! Possibly immortal, as he was givn six months to live back in 2002 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Negatives - sees no problem with the current amount of internationals played by the England team. In a twelve month period up to April, the England squad had spent over 200 days abroad - that's the sort of level that allows you to apply for tax-exile status.

Giles Clarke (Somerset)

Postitives - Negotiated the recent TV deal with Sky which has resulted in a big windfall for English cricket.

Negatives - Ditto, resulting in over half the population unable to watch live test cricket. Rather 'outspoken' - not exactly Mr Popular with other county chairmen.

As we await the white smoke to appear over Lords, and the name of the new Chairman it's worth reflecting one one particular acheivement of their predesSESSOR. Whoever wins, it's hard to imagine them being quite as effective as wielding power and influence as David Morgan was.

For, fired by loyalty to his home county (he was Chairman of Glamorgan for over a decade), Morgan managed to pull off the extraordinary feat of getting an Ashes Test for Cardiff in 2009 without the new ground developments even being approved by the appropriate local council committee.

An ASHES Test!! One of the biggest money spinners in the cricketing calendar.

Ok, the test was subject to planning approval- but what planning committee is going to be able to stand up to that sort of pressure?

There have been two more orthodox additions to the list of International venues in the past five years - the Rose Bowl and Chester-le-Street. Each has effectively gone through an apprenticeship, starting off with a couple of ODIs and tests against minor opponents. This has been quite a handy process as it revealed, for example, problems with road access at the Rose Bowl - a proboem that is now being addressed prior to any more internationals being allocated.

Cardiff has jumped straight in with an Ashes Test two years from now - no warm ups, no trial runs- just an assumption that everything will be ok by then.

Morgan's new job is as head of the ICC. Their headquarters is currently in Dubai, but on past performance, I think we can expect it to be moved to the Rhonnda Valley before too long.

Incidently, how cool would it have been had Bill Morris been persauded to take the job. Imagine the conversation in the Lords Long Room: -

- 'Who's this Morris fella?'

- 'He's a member of the House of Lords Sir'

- 'Excellent'

- 'A lifelong cricket fan'

- 'Wonderful'

- 'Er, he's an ex trade unionist'

- 'Hmmmm'

- 'Member of the Labour Party'

- 'Grrrrr, you'll be telling me he's black next....'

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Model Army

When it came down to a straight choice at Lords between Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad, I was firmly in the Broad camp. My thoughts were that - based on what I'd seen, read and heard, Broad has the attitude and 'intangibles' to face up to a decent test batting line up - Tremlett doesn't. I still stand by that, admittedly rather sweeping, judgment. It didn't help that Tremlett had apparently been favoured based his performance in the nets on Wednesday afternoon! That smacked too much of the bad old days when that reason was used to justify Ashley Giles playing in a test after only a couple of first class games in twelve months. If that criteria still applies though - I wouldn't like to be a batsman facing Broad in any pre-test net session in the coming weeks. (I've already made a mental note to get to Trent Bridge early on Friday to watch the fun!)

I realise this is very short sighted, and more than a little unfair. Maybe part of the problem is that the trauma of last winter last winter is still very much in the forefront of my mind - and thus everything tends to be focussed purely on summer 2009 rather than the 'here and now'. When a new player, especially a bowler, comes into the frame my immediate thought is 'how will they do against Australia?' - or in India or in Sri Lanka? There have been too many false dawns over the years, too many 'next big things', and too many disappointments and let downs.

Tremlett's body language and performance during the ODIs in Oz were frankly embarrassing, whereas Broad had come in the summer before and shaken up some decent Pakistan batsmen - and given them a mouthful for good measure. Reports from the counties suggested that Broad has 'got what it takes' - and you there's also the fact that Broad Senior was a very good opening bat who had the happy knack of getting hundreds in Australia, whereas Tremlett Senior was a pretty average county medium pacer.

Hats off to Chirs Tremlett, therefore, for his debut performance. With the ball coming down from around ten feet high, you don't have to be lightening quick - though it would help, but he showed excellent control and had a very strong Indian middle order showing him the utmost respect from the word go. On TMS yesterday - Gooch and Ashley Giles were both making the point that he needs to get in batsmens face more. He comes across as almost sheepish though he certainly has a decent teacher to remedy that in his county captain. 'Sheepish' isn't a word in Shane Warne's vocabulary, unless it's describing one of his Aussie teamates girlfriends...

Perhaps it's churlish to carp on one particular point after someone has only played a single test. After all, no one can be expected to set the world alight on their test debut (unless their names are Botham or Trueman) so maybe we shouldn't be so critical, but it's done for the best possuible reasons.

You can only beat what's in front of you at the time. The truth is that, at Lords over the past five days, in old fashioned 'typically English' conditions a very inexperienced attacked exceeded expectations. They bowled as a unit - attacked effectively when they needed to attack, and were disciplined enough to go onto the defensive when necessary - Sideshow Bob especially showed admirable nous, shortening his length when the ball stopped swinging - and the Show Pony was an absolute revelation.

Although one swallow doesn't make a summer. it's safe to say that the biggest positive is that there now appears to be some proper depth to our quick bowling line-up. No one, except perhaps a fully fit Flintoff, can take their bowling place for granted. You have to hope that Saj Mahmood (once he's fit) and Liam Plunkett will take inspiration from this performance and be looking to return to the England set up as soon as they can.

If there's one element of doubt, it has to be that this particular four bowler attack consisted of four number ten batsmen. Although some of what Duncan Fletcher preached seems to have become heresy and sometimes his dogma became a little too rigid (Monty last winter) , you can't argue with his contention of the importance of bowlers being able to bat. Dear old Gilo had his critics, but he was a pretty effective number eight, as he proved many times over the years. it's quite alarming to consider that six down now means that the hutch is open.

Off to Trent Bridge!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Everybody Hurts

Back at the beginning of April I posted this;

Assuming Simon Jones makes a full recovery, the England selectors will have an interesting problem putting a bowling attack together from this summer.

With Freddie presumably a 'given' for one of the four fast bowling places, you're effectively picking the remaining three from the following seven names: -


A nice problem to have I'd suggest.

Updating that list -

Harmison - Injured
Hoggard - Injured
Mahmood - Injured
Plunkett - Learning how to bowl
Anderson - Back from injury - now leading the attack
Jones - On his way back from injury
Broad - Close but (currently) no cigar

Plus -

Freddie - On his way back from injury (again)
Sidebottom - Pleasant surprise
Tremlett - Picked ahead of Broad, but surely not a long term option

Out of ten bowlers on that list, three are currently injured, two are on their way back from injury and one (Anderson) has had extensive injury problems since making his debut.

Now I know that it's a fine balance between keeping players fit and giving them enough bowling to maintain their form between test apperances, but that's a heck of a lot of injuries in anyone's language.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Boots and Panties

Some random thoughts following a day at Lords

The Indian bowling in the first hour minutes was woeful, By all means blame it on the famous 'slope' but shouldn't really take that long to adapt. By the time they finally got their line sorted out, England were well past 50 and the potential weak link (Strauss) was on his way to a hard earned 96, which could very well be the turning point for the Middlesex opener.

Scrape away the teeth-grindingly annoying veneer of the 'establishment at play', and Lords is a fantastic place to watch cricket. Architectually it has kept pace with time without losing the wonderful atmosphere. Extraordinarily, the 'spaceship' actually 'works' in terms of design and location - though when the plans were first drawn up I'm sure a few traditionalists must have had a fit!

Whilst crowds at other English test match keep post-lunch boredom at bay by resorting to Mexican waves and vocal support, the Lords crowd simply put their head down for forty winks. Seriously, the middle session wasn't the most exciting passage of play - although you quickly started to appreciate again how much India have owed to Anil Kumble over the years, but it was played out to a background sound of gentle snoring. From my seat at the Nursery end I saw at least 20 people having a quick post-prandial snooze.

Celebratory spotting - Richie Benaud (much much smaller than I was expecting) 'Boycie' from Only Fools & Horses looking very dapper in blazer and chinos... Goochie and his performing hair-weave... a wonder of modern technology. Dean Headley - the great 'what might have been' of English cricket, and Michael Parkinson.

There are few more magical sights in sport than the Michael Vaughan cover-drive... although his on-drive runs it close.

The lunch scene behind the pavilion still looks like something from the golden days of the Raj.

I've mentioned this before but what is it about MCC members and dress sense? Do they have their 'sartorial sense' gene surgically extracted when they become members? Admittedly the garish 'blood and pus' tie does no one any favours on the colour-cordination front, but when you mix it with a blue shirt, plum coloured trousers and a striped boating jacket you're really asking for ridicule.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'A frightfully nice chap!'

According to Vic Marks in today's Observer, the England selectors will be 'loath' to leave out Andrew Strauss for three reasons...

1) he is a trusted veteran now of 40 Tests; 2) he is a good bloke; 3) there is no obvious like-for-like replacement in the wings so that his omission would cause ripples of change that most teams like to avoid.

1. Big deal

2. For heaven's sake, what is this, 1955? We're talking about the England cricket team here, not a weeks golfing holiday in La Manga.

3. Well, yes, possibly - but England have had to rejuggle the balance of the side because of the absence of Freddie over the past couple of months. Surely it's not beyond the wit of the selectors to come up with a 'Plan B' in circumstances like this - or are they seriously suggesting that Strauss remains in the side until either his lack of runs becomes a total embarrassment, or he finally plays himself into some form?

Good to see Stuart Broad in the 13 though.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Worcester Sauce

Just a thought, but when Worcestershire are fined points for the recent 'farcical aquatic ceremony' (Ref - Holy Grail) played out at New Road, could Kent not be given the points that Worcester are deducted?

After all, it's the White Horse county that have suffered most through this - apart from the spectators of course. Lying in the bottom half of the first division table, Kent would have been looking for a good haul of points over the past four days against the bottom county. Instead, thanks to the refusal of the Worcester authorities to agree to having the game moved, they have ended up with a measly four - whilst rivals Surrey made hay while the sun shone (in
London at least) and picked up a handy eighteen points by beating Durham.

In addition, the Kent team have effectively been sent on a four day wild- goose-chase, kicking their heels in the changing room and at their hotel, when they could have been much better employed elsewhere.

Barring an unprecendented 100 degree heatwave mixed with a brisk wind, the Worcester groundsman must have been aware well before the scheduled start of the game that conditions were unplayable - and would remain so throughout the four days - but the chairman was cynically quite prepared to let the scheduled start arrive without an recourse to relocating the game - either to Kidderminster, or even to Beckenham, which was the Kent offer.

Whilst you have to have some sympathy for the financial position the weather has put Worcestershire in, don't forget that Kent are liable to suffer equally badly if they are relegated at the end of the season.

He who pays the piper...

I've previously posted here about Allen Stanford and the monumental financial commitment he's making to grassroots cricket in West Indies - £50 million pounds over the next three years.

There's a further development outlined here. He wants to run a week long 20/20 tournament in Antigua next June involving four nations (Australia, South Africa, India & Sri Lanka) with the winners playing a West Indies All Stars 20/20 side, drawn from the best players in the (now) annual Stanford 20/20 competition.

It'll be interesting to see how the ICC react to this. The last time the cricket authorities came up against a determined individual prepared to sink a lot of money into the game they were left with egg all over their faces. Presumably they'll want to avoid the same fate again, so maybe they should be looking at ways of encouraging Stanford into the cricketing fold, rather than treating him as some pesky external irritant.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Workers Playtime

- Alright Jimmy, you old tart, it’s Tony!

- Hi mate – how did it go on Friday?

- Fantastic! We all went out on the lash ‘big stylee’ at lunchtime – must have had about seven pints each down at the Cheshire Cheese – we took Bob from Charterhouse Insurance with us so we could claim it all on expenses, even though we don’t do any work with them at all. He’s a right knobend!

- Nice one!

- By four o’clock there was no point going back to the office, so we all went straight down to the Oval for the 20/20. Stevie K had got a whole load of tickets through a tout he knows in Aldgate. Only 20 quid each, and because Bob was with us, it all gets put down as ‘entertainment’

- Superb! Who were Surrey playing?

- No idea. Bar was open when we went in, so we loaded up – they’ve got this shitty rule that you can only have four pints per person, so we ordered THIRTY TWO for the eight of us… you should have seen their faces!

- Awesome!

- Once we got to our seats the place was fucking packed – loads of other city boys, and some family groups with kids and stuff. Also, loads of fantastic totty.

- Nice!

Mickey Evans did his usual stuff – became a right comedian. Everytime someone walked in front of us, he yelled ‘Siddown’ really loud – fucking hilarious… every time – wonderful – we pissed ourselves laughing!

- Good stuff!

- Couple of tossers in front of us got a bit shirty, but we told them to take a hike, then some old codger complained about the swearing, so Big Kev told him to “fuck off Grandad” – fucking great!

- Amazing!

- Then Mickey starting standing up and dropping his strides and flashing some birds behind us, shouting out “I ate all the pies”

- Great!

- At half-time we got more beers in – then Mickey just went mental, shouting and giving it large at everyone around us, it was a real laugh! The old codger and his missus had another go, said his grandchildren were getting upset – but why do you bring young kids to cricket for fucks sake?

- Excellent!

- Towards the end it got a bit lairy – some geezer lobbed a beer over Mickey who got the RIGHT hump and threw one back, then it all got a bit tasty – few fists went in, Mickey went over the back of the seats to try to get to this bloke who’d showered him.

- Really?

- Yeah – some stewards came up and tried to cart Mickey off – people behind were cheering so Mickey gave them an earful and a few V signs, then Dibble stuck their nose in and Mickey got carted out.

- Bad news. Who won the game?

- No idea. But we all said we’d make a point of doing it again next year. Cricket after work is fantastic, especially on a Friday when you can really pile it on! We’ll have a word with the Marketing people and sort out three of four games where we can take a real crowd down there - right laugh!

- Good news!

- Anyway – game was almost over then, so by the time we got out, Mickey had been let out and we all piled in a couple of cabs – few more beers in the West End then off to Spearmint Rhino!

- Nice!

- All on expenses of course!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Favourite Shirts

True story – a few years back I went up to Edgbaston for the New Zealand Test. There was a guy on the same early morning train from my local station into London who seemed to be heading in the same direction. The clues were all there - he was reading the sports pages of the Torygraph, and was wearing a Kent CCC one-day shirt, jeans and sandals and had a rucksack, presumably full of food and drink. Sticking out of the top of the rucksack was a white panama hat.

He was then on the same tube to Euston, and then the same train to Birmingham New Street.

In Birmingham it was pissing down with rain, so my friends and I passed most of the day in a pub near the station. We finally gave up at around 4pm, wandered (staggered) round the city centre, bought about 100 pounds worth of punk rock and Family Guy DVDs at the local HMV and then got on the train home.

The guy from my local station was on the same train – then the same tube train, and then the same train out of Charing Cross. We both got off the train at our local station and walked out of the station at the same time. Feeling that this was getting ridiculous and that I was possibly living in an Ingmar Bergman movie I decided to, belatedly, break the ice;

‘Bloody weather eh?!’


‘Rain – no play at all, a wasted journey!’

‘I’ve been working’

‘Working? I thought you’d gone to the cricket?’


‘In Birmingham…’

‘I’ve been at an IT conference’

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hey, Mr Postman

As the TV cameras panned round to the huge swathes of empty seats in the Lords Pavilion, you could only assume that the Postal Workers strike on Friday meant that 80 percent of MCC members didn't receive their tickets for today's ODI. There can be no other reason for such a pathetic turn-out at the 'Home of Cricket'.

After all, the guys in the 'blood & pus' coloured ties are cricketing experts - the sort of people you'd expect to turn up for any international event at their home ground - especially as they don't even have to pay for their tickets.

On a related note - the Oval members area was totally packed for both 20/20 internationals last week.

Throwing in the Towel?

Friday's 20/20 saw one of the most blatant pieces of cheating I've ever seen on a cricket field - yet it seems to have been almost totally overlooked almost everywhere except in the Telegraph.

Marlon Samuel's quicker ball to get a bemused Paul Collingwood stumped was delivered with a crooked elbow that any MLB pitcher would have been proud of. It clocked in at 78mph, whereas every delivery before and after, delivered with the fantastically languid action that Samuels adopts, was timed at around 50mph.

There was no reaction at all from the square-leg umpire, and as far as I'm aware there has been no follow-up report from the match referee.

Bizarrely, the Sky commentators TOTALLY ignored the evidence of illegality in front of their eyes. The Slowmo from side-on showed clearly that Samuels had chucked the ball... it was repeated three times, so you got the impression that the director was ready for them to comment. Shamefully, David Lloyd and Nasser stayed silent making only guarded comments about the variations in the speed of deliveries. Quite a shocking reaction, when they are normally so quick to jump on any potential scandal going on out in the middle. (Consider the way Inzamam's antics at The Oval last year were dissected in minutest detail)

Credit where credit's due - Aggers on TMS today compared the delivery with that off Jocky Wilson throwing a dart. This elicited a weary sigh from Gus Fraser and a comment along the lines of 'please, not all this again?' Remember Fraser was on the ICC committee that effectively cleared Murali, when a group of previously sober judges turned into wild eyed Pythagorian Professors measuring degrees and angles to try to defend the indefensible.

It now seems the 'offical' reaction to chucking is to either ignore it, or to brush it under the carpet.

Samuels's 'pitch' (I'm not going to credit it with the description 'delivery') happened in a meaningless 20/20 game - a format that used to be called 'beer match' when I played them in club cricket. It could have cost England the game - what happens when he tries it in a Test Match, or full ODI?